I’m not a very good Christian. And I don’t say that in a self deprecating sort of way. It’s a self reflective, brutally honest assessment of my relationship with God. Most days, I have no idea what I’m doing. My family asks me why I don’t write more about religion, faith, and spirituality, and truth is I don’t think I’m all that qualified to be giving my opinion on those subjects. I don’t have many awe-inspiring experiences from my walk to share. I don’t even know what my testimony would look like if I were asked to give it. I’m a horrid example of what a Christian should be. It’s not my place to tell someone else how to live for God, how to better their walk, how to best follow the teachings of the Bible.
Then again, I don’t believe it’s anyone’s place to do that.
We’re all fallible. We are human and we make mistakes. We are far from perfect. Even as we try to live for Christ, we fall short. We can never truly imitate God’s goodness and holiness. It is only through God’s unending grace and mercy that we come close, while still realizing that the closest we’ll be is so far from what we’d wish, from what God intended. He gave us a choice, and we picked wrong. We were tempted away from everything God would have bestowed upon us by an empty and unsatisfying promise. We lost so much in the garden. We gave up so much. And for centuries afterward, we’ve continued to make those mistakes over and over.
Human history is a sad retelling of mankind’s imperfection. With each passing year we fall farther. Corruption and greed and selfishness have taken root in our hearts, and we cling to them even as we know we should let them go. Sadly, we’ve told ourselves they give us something that nothing else can provide; we’ve believed lies. And being a Christian has not left us exempt. We are just as susceptible as those outside the faith. Unfortunately, we often use God as an excuse for our behavior. We act as we do in the name of God, forgetting being a Christian doesn’t always mean we’re right. It doesn’t excuse our own selective blindness to our imperfect, fallible, mistaken tendencies.
God must always be on our side, right? But we’ve divided ourselves into so many sides. Within the Church we’ve spliced ourselves into factions, sects, cliques, movements, revivals, denominations. We’ve hacked away at the body of Christ, surrounded ourselves with the like-minded. We’ve made our religion into something that answers the questions the way we want it to. We’ve locked ourselves into positions that breed close-mindedness.
And none of us are safe from it. None of us are above it. We have all succumbed to the notion that we must know the Truth and everyone else must be misguided, and in doing so, we have become a poor, diluted manifestation of God’s Church on earth. We attack each other with gusto, because we are determined to convince them they are wrong. They must be wrong, because they do not agree with us and we are right. We are the true believers. We follow the right Gospel, the right teachings of God. We demean other Christians and their faith in an attempt to build ourselves up. We rely on arrogance rather than love and grace. We mask public shaming as necessary enlightening.
We have embarrassed ourselves.
We love those who are like us. We condemn those who are not. We give grace when it’s easy, when we want to, but withhold it when we feel wronged. We’ve put conditions on that which Jesus gave unconditionally. We are greedy and selfish with our love, grace, and forgiveness, handing it out as if we are doing those around us a favor. We’ve put ourselves on a pedestal as if we are the superior Christian who has unlocked some theological secret.
And we don’t see it, not in ourselves. We’re blind to the harm we’ve done, or perhaps we justify the harm. We claim Truth and justice are on our side. By shaming those who do not believe as we do, we show them how they should be. What God wants for them. We act this way, we tell ourselves, for the good of God’s Church, to save other Christians from their ignorant, misguided notions of what they believe Christianity to be.
We’ve become a religion of tough love. And we’re doing it wrong.
We are better than that. We are better than the mess we’ve made of the Church and our faith. We are better than the disagreements and bitterness and divisions we have created within the Church. We are better than the embarrassing image of God’s love we present to a world that so desperately needs Him. We can do so much better. God intended us for so much more than what we’ve become.
Instead of tearing down our brothers and sisters, pointing out faults as if we ourselves have none, we should be building each other up in encouragement and surrounding each other in love. We should offer grace without question, forgiving even though we don’t believe they deserve it. We must respect each other. We must be gracious, willing to admit that just maybe we are wrong. We must look to Christ’s example, rather than merely using Him and the Bible to justify our actions and behavior. We should try to emulate Him in every way, not simply in the ways that suit us.
We need to remember that being a Christian does not undo our humanness.
Because being human should allow for compassion towards our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than harsh judgment. It should allow for empathy and understanding. We are not perfect. We will never be perfect. And we cannot punish someone for failing to be what we ourselves can never achieve. We should love first, love second, and love in spite of any conflict, disagreement, bitterness, or division. We should love without conditions, love graciously and intentionally. Because…
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 ESV)
We were commanded to love each other. I think it’s time we remembered that and let go of the rest.
Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.